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Developer Andy Gallina's proposal for a 14-story mixed-use building – commercial on the lower floors, condominiums above – was, in his words, "selected and then unselected."
- PHOTO BY JOSH SAUNDERS
- Andy Gallina is president of the family-owned Gallina Development Corporation, which specializes in commercial and real estate development and management in Monroe County. Among its developments: the Metropolitan, the former Chase bank building, which it has converted into commercial and residential use, and the Midcentury Modern office building 1 East Avenue adjacent to Parcel 5.
His was one of three proposals submitted for development of Parcel 5, and both he and city officials agree that he was initially told he was the city's choice. But when state funding fell short of his request and he wanted time to redo his numbers, the city awarded the development to RBTL and Morgan.
Gallina is clearly proud of his proposal. Architectural engineers at SWBR worked with him to develop it, he says, and it was based on their collective knowledge of downtown Rochester, its challenges and its potential. Together they defined four key things they felt downtown needed: parking, retail, home ownership, and green space, and they designed a building to address all four.
"Parking continues to be a problem downtown," says Gallina, whose other downtown properties include 1 East Avenue, adjacent to Parcel 5, and the Metropolitan, the former Chase bank building. "I struggle with it almost daily. With bringing people downtown, the thing is tenants need parking, and we don’t have good parking or good easy parking solutions. It’s always a little here or a little there. But we don’t have a good parking conversation in our community."
For his building, Gallina says, "I was going to excavate the whole parcel and go down two levels and create 155 spots underground. That would go right underneath the whole parcel."
Gallina and his team believed that downtown needs retail, so the building included retail space on Main Street. It also included space for a restaurant or bar to have entertainment – jazz, maybe – and outdoor dining. Offices would have decks or patios so people could go outside, all of that designed to help invigorate Main Street and downtown.
Gallina is convinced – and outside advisers to the city agree – that downtown needs more owner-occupied housing units. "People want to come downtown," he says "but people want to buy."
Right now, home ownership within the Inner Loop is only about 4 percent, says Gallina, "We want people to invest and people do want to invest. But what we got now is all rental. That’s a big concern."
"People want to come downtown," he says, "but people want to buy. They want something that’s theirs, and we found that to be a big hole."
"It was always about what this community needs," Gallina says. "It’s been well-documented that we need retail. We need people on the street. Lovely has talked about how we need people on the street. So we recognize that and we agree."
Gallina already has condominiums in the works, on the top five floors of the Metropolitan, which also houses commercial space and apartments. And he's convinced that "they’ll fly off the shelves."
"We’ve had a lot of interest," he says.
"The last component," Gallina says, "which I personally feel is just as important as any of them, is greenspace."
Gallina's proposal included open space behind his building, facing Tower 280, to be used as an urban park. Although Gallina would have paid the city $1 million, he would have given the green back for community use.
- PHOTO BY PETER PARTS, COURTESY OF THE XEROX ROCHESTER INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL
- Both the Fringe Festival and the Xerox International Jazz Festival have staged events on Parcel 5, drawing massive crowds.
To make the numbers work, Gallina needed some help both from the city and the state. "The biggest thing was we asked the state for some financial support for the parking garage," Gallina says.
"The state came back with some money," he says, but not enough – "substantially less than what we asked for. So we had to rethink this and reprice this, because we didn’t get the support that we thought we’d get either from the city or the state."
And that, he says, is "the time period where the mayor changed her mind about this whole thing."
Both Gallina and city officials say that that city officials had a press release ready to announce the mayor's choice of Gallina. And Gallina wouldn't permit its release.
"Why? Because it was inaccurate," he says, "and it announced the project, but I wasn’t ready to commit to it because of a whole host of things."
Gallina says that once the state didn't offer as much support as he requested, he asked his team to rework the project enough to make it financially feasible. He was simply doing what any intelligent, successful developer would do at that stage, he says: conduct the "value engineering" that was needed, getting specific costs as the plans and designs were developed.
City officials say this was only one of several times Gallina had requested delays. Gallina agrees but says that back-and-forth discussions between government and developers aren't unusual as development plans continue to be fleshed out.
And while Gallina and his team were reworking their design, Arnie Rothschild went back to the mayor with a revised proposal of his own – plus a $25 million commitment from Tom Golisano and an apartment tower addition by Bob Morgan.
On April 7, 2017, the mayor announced that she had chosen the RBTL-Morgan proposal.
And, says Gallina: "When we were unselected, our statement said, 'Hey, fine. Whatever is best for the community.' And that’s where we left it."
"But the community does have to get behind this," Gallina adds, "and that’s where we are now." Public officials and the community are still trying to understand what's best for the community, he said: "That’s why you’re going to find a whole host of folks that are pushing just for greenspace."
"I’m not a strong supporter of the performing arts center," says Gallina. "It’s not the right location, and it’s not serving enough of the cultural institutions. For all of the public money going into it, it’s serving RBTL and that’s all."
"And I would like to see some more space for some of the other cultural institutions like Garth Fagan and some of the others that wanted to use this space," says Gallina. "If we’re going to do this and use public money, why do it just for RBTL? I think there’s an opportunity here to make it much more of a community performing arts center."